Bordeaux Harvest 2010

The grape harvest is underway in Bordeaux and I thought it would be useful to see how both the red and white grapes are getting along. Gavin Quinney at Chateau Bauduc in Créon (Entre Deux Mers) started picking his white grapes on 10th September and Jean-François Julien of Chateau La Fleur Morange in Saint Pey d’Amens (Saint Emilion) on 21st September.

Gavin and Angela Quinney bought Chateau Bauduc in 1999 and have had dramatic success with their wines – both leading British chefs Gordon Ramsay and Rick Stein use Chateau Bauduc as their House wines

. If you are interested in trying the wines Gavin sells directly from his website – they are super wines at a reasonable price and regularly sell out.

Bauduc is a 19th century cream-coloured stone manor with 75 acres of vines set in 125 acres of woods and parkland. Gavin is originally from Worcestershire and Angela from Surrey and they have systematically improved the quality of the old chateau’s vineyards

. The Quinneys make red Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur, plus Bordeaux Rosé and Bordeaux Blanc Sec. The grapes are grown on clay, gravel and limestone soils: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc for the reds and Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon (some of the Sémillon vines are 60 years old) for the whites.

Créon has something in common with Chateau Bauduc – the bastide (bastille) town was in English hands for 300 years. An edict of Westminster, signed by King Edward II of England, founded Créon in 1316.

Gavin used to pick the white grapes by hand during their first 5 years, but found that they lost flavour and risked oxidation from warmed-up white grapes by picking under the midday sun. With a seriously dry growing season this year: (“just 156mm of rain in the six months since the beginning of March 1st to the end of August, compared to 363mm in 2009 – and 2009 was a dry year”) the grapes were harvested by machine before dawn, long before the heat of the day.

The drought conditions did affect the young vines but although many of the lower leaves around the fruit zone yellowed and dried out, the Sauvignon Blanc grapes were in remarkably fine shape for the most part. There were worries that the grapes would produce too much sugar and provide a low crop but Gavin has been pleasantly surprised.

So too has Jean-François at Chateau La Fleur Morange. After consulting with the oenologist Claude Gros he decided to pick up a parcel of young vines (10 years old)

. These vines were protected from the cold Spring due to their sheltered position next to the church in the village and were ahead of their peers by about 10 – 15 days. His remaining harvest is planned for early October.

Jean-François’ first impression was that the alcohol level from these grapes was the most impressive he has ever seen. Some grapes on the vines had been touched by drought.

These shrivelled grapes had little juice and low sugar levels but those on the same cluster that were not affected by the lack of rain had a level of 14°. The desiccated grapes were meticulously sorted and removed by hand. From these Jean-François did an analysis of the must and found the alcohol level was 15 degrees with a good acidity level report.

Jean-François is a perfectionist. He was a skilful cabinet maker by trade and he married Véronique, whose parents were wine makers. There is an old carpenter’s saying:

“Measure twice and cut once” and this suits him down to the ground. His verdict is that 2010 reminds him of 2005 but as he says: “The battle is not won. The vinification will not be simple it’ll have to be vigilant.”

Château la Fleur Morange is a boutique wine and the vineyard is only 4 acres. It has the added rarity of having 100 year old vines and a unique terroir. The soil is sand and clay layers over limestone and clinker sub soil – the only complex mixture known to exist in Saint Emilion – which Jean-François says contributes to the finesse of the tannins.

The vineyards are planted with 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. This represents the same percentages in the grapes used to blend all the vintages with the exception of the 2001 where a blend of 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Franc were used.

As to whether 2010 will be hailed as the vintage of the century Jean-François thinks La Fleur Morange will be the best so far but that “one century is a long time . . . “

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